Condition: Once referred to as “spinal stabilization,” core strengthening refers to building muscles in the torso area, particularly the back and abdominal muscles.
Background: People who have a weak core are more prone to spinal injuries and back pain. Strengthening the core increases pressure inside the abdominal area, which acts as a natural “corset” to protect the spine.
Risk Factors: People who are have jobs that require manual lifting or repetitive tasks, who are depressed or from a lower income, or who smoke are more at risk for back pain.
History and Symptoms: Many spinal injuries respond to core strengthening, especially in people whose spines are relatively unstable. Most acute spinal pain can improve dramatically within weeks when a patient follows a program prescribed by their physicians.
Physical Exam: Most patients can perform and benefit from core strengthening. However it is important to have a physical exam before starting a program, to ensure there are no underlying issues that should be addressed. A physician will usually examine a patient’s posture and spinal position, to better understand their current core condition and how to improve it.
Diagnostic Process: Each patient’s diagnosis varies—some have severe pain, others lower grade pain. Additionally, patient injuries may need to heal before a core strengthening program can begin.
Rehab Management: If a patient is experiencing severe pain, pain medications are often prescribed before core strengthening. Typically, strengthening intensifies over time. It’s also important to know that for some people, core strengthening can eliminate pain; for others, it may not, but can help reduce it.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Core strengthening is good for everyone, not just patients with pain. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published examples of basic core strengthening exercises to help you get started.